6 Steps for Getting in Summer Shape

With beach season fast approaching, many of us are eager to boost our health and energy levels, and maybe shed a few “winter weight” pounds with clean living. No need for dramatic steps – the key is small, achievable goals.

Step 1: Drink water. Then drink more water.

Opt for water rather than sweetened or caffeine-laden beverages. You’ll drive down your calorie intake, and increase your body’s ability to eliminate waste and toxins. (An average adult female should drink 5 pints a day; an adult male 6.) And be kind to your body, and the planet, by using stainless steel water bottles, not plastic.

Step 2: Eat your vegetables. Then eat more.

Let vegetables take center stage at meal time, with protein and starch in second position. Vegetables deliver more healthy phytochemicals, essential vitamins and minerals, and fill you up on fewer calories. The less processed, the better.

Step 3: Go easy on the salt.

Sure, salt adds flavor to food, but the key is moderation. Too salt much is linked to high blood pressure – but the recommended limit is just one teaspoon! Instead of overdoing it, start with fresh ingredients, and experiment with a sprinkle of lemon or lime zest, chopped fresh herbs, or grated garlic and ginger to enhance flavor. Chili and cayenne pepper have the added benefit of active ingredient capsaicin, which stimulates flavor and enhances digestion. (Try Spicy Raw Vegan Chili to get a taste of the power of chili.)

Step 4: More fruit snacks.

The Mediterranean diet, associated with a healthy heart and digestion, encourages snacking on fresh fruit between meals. It’s smart choice: fresh fruit tends to be low in calories, high in fiber and water, and provides vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants. Another option is cold-pressed Living Juice, made from organic fruit and vegetables with no added sugar or water.

Step 5: Don’t be refined about it - experiment with grains.

You already know white refined flour and grains are overly processed, and therefore lack nutrition and fiber. Mix it up with a variety of whole grains like wild rice, quinoa and amaranth, which have different flavors, texture and nutritional benefits. Whole grains deliver healthy, slow release carbohydrates, your body’s main energy source. If your digestion is sluggish, try gluten-free grains/seeds including oats, buckwheat and millet. Here’s a great vegan macrobiotic recipe for Brown Rice Risotto.

Step 6: More live food.

The live food philosophy is very simple: Source the freshest ingredients (organic and in season, if possible), and apply less heat to extract the maximum flavor and nutrients. Live or raw foods contain enzymes, important for digestion and absorption of food, and heating food over 116 degrees destroys those enzymes.